Song #274 of 9999
Title: When Doves Cry
Album: Purple Rain
Have you listened to Purple Rain lately? An album that seemed like it was destined to be a timeless classic in 1984 sounds cheesy and dated almost thirty years later. "I Would Die 4 U," "Let's Go Crazy," even "Purple Rain"—they still retain some of their magic, but it's more like the kind that transports you back to the time the songs were written, not the kind that makes you feel alive in the present moment. To me, the lasting and glorious exception is "When Doves Cry."
I think "When Doves Cry" still works today by avoiding many of the new-in-1984 sounds that dominate the other songs on the album. "Purple Rain" has that ringing chorus-laden rhythm guitar and the big electric reverberated drums. "I Would Die 4 U" has the sampled-and-processed hand-clap and fat synthy bass. "Let's Go Crazy" almost achieves lasting greatness, but those Oberheim(?) organ/bell patches give away its age.
"When Doves Cry" avoids most of these problems by creating textures that are generated by traditional instruments and by limiting their use. Most of the song consists of layered vocal tracks sung a capella over a drum loop. (Yes, the drum track has 80s characteristics but it's more mechanical in nature and could pass for something heard today.) The lead guitar has a sound that any modern guitarist would love to have at his disposal. (The playing's not too shabby either.) Most of the synth patches have a piano- or harp-like quality that could have been generated in almost any decade and the brilliant synth solo near the end of the song sounds like a Moog. But the richest texture comes from the tight vocal layering, so clever and evocative in its support of the title and concept of the song. And wisely, Prince avoids the fat synth bass sound by simply leaving out the bass altogether! Great song for any decade.